Cumberland: Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 | Cumberland

     The whole sordid tale began innocently enough in an unassuming little whistle stop, tucked away about twenty-five miles east of Nashville, called Lebanon. It’s in this municipality of antebellum homes, with stately white-pillared porches, that you would find (if you look hard enough that is) a small southern university called Cumberland. Nestled in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, the town of Lebanon (pronounced “LEB-nun” by Middle Tennesseans) was named after the abundance of cedar trees that grew in the area, reminding early settlers of the biblical land of cedars.

     According to the university bulletin, the town boasted a population of five thousand people, hardly a booming metropolis. Despite its modest number of citizens, the town of Lebanon was not without its share of attractions in those years. Aside from the handsome university and beautiful cedar forests, there was the annual Wilson County Fair, the majestic Cumberland River and a statue of Robert H. Hatton, which stood proudly in the town square.

     One thing Lebanon didn’t have was saloons. Not officially anyway, having been abolished in 1901. Being outlawed, however, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Despite efforts by the city founders to close them, there were reportedly no fewer than nine drinking establishments on or near the public square that the locals could patronize. Not that this was reason for worry. Regardless of what evil spirits passed through the lips of students and townsfolk on Saturday nights, there were plenty of churches to attend on Sunday morning to absolve them of their sins.

     The fall of 1916 was certainly a quiet, pastoral time in Lebanon, Tennessee. In less than a year, the country would be pulled into the First World War. This would be followed by the Roaring Twenties. Followed by the Great Depression. Then, finally, exactly twenty-five years and two months later, a surprise attack on an American naval base in Pearl Harbor would drag the country into the Second World War.

     For the moment, however, the time was innocent. People were drinking Coca-Cola at soda fountains. Norman Rockwell had just painted his first cover for the Saturday Evening Post, published on March 10 of that same year. Charlie Chaplin had introduced his Little Tramp a couple years back and D.W. Griffith had released Birth of a Nation the year before. Far from the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, ocean liners were the rage. And everywhere the suffrage movement was well underway as women strived for equality. It’s in this atmosphere of innocence and tranquility that Cumberland students returned from summer break that fateful fall to begin the new school year. Male and female students alike eagerly anticipated the types of futures that lay ahead of them in this exciting new era of opportunity and good fortune for those ambitious enough to go out and get it.

     While unprecedented prosperity was within reach to those who graduated from this fine southern university, the road for Cumberland to get to this point in history was not an easy one, having to survive a war between the states that divided the country in half and tore through their small community, leaving their school in ashes. Founded in 1843, the prestigious law school was added five years later where it would remain a vital part of the school in the decades that followed.

     The university would boast about its distinguished sons, pointing out “no law school in the country within the first half century of its existence has furnished the profession a more honorable and worthy body of graduates.” Led by Judge Nathan Green Jr., Cumberland would grow in reputation to become one of, if not the, most prestigious law schools in the entire south. Judge Green taught at Cumberland for sixty-three years and was named dean of the law school in 1882. In that time, the thousands of Cumberland alumni would come to include an “honor roll” of distinguished sons who have reached as high as the United States Supreme Court. Many had become state governors, members of both houses of the U.S. Congress, judges, ambassadors and a Secretary of State of the United States. Only Harvard University reportedly had a higher percentage of its graduates in Who’s Who in America.

     While early classes were conducted in a little brick church building or in the residences of faculty members, the magnificent University Hall was erected in 1844. Designed by master architect William Strickland, the three-story structure featured a divided porch, Corinthian columns and a Doric pediment. A tower was added at some point. By 1860 the hall had been enlarged to house all university departments - literary, law and theological.

     Unfortunately, the building would not survive the Civil War. When the fighting stopped and university operations resumed, all classes would go back to being held in church houses and residences for a while. Strickland, who had planned the Tennessee State Capitol, also designed two other notable buildings in the town of Lebanon: the Wilson County Courthouse and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. After University Hall was burned by soldiers in 1864, the courthouse was also lost to fire in 1881 and the church would be destroyed by a tornado in 1917.

     Memorial Hall, opened in 1896, became the new cornerstone of Cumberland University. A 50-acre field just to the southwest of town was chosen to be the new university campus where the building still stands today. Planned by Nashville architect William Crawford Smith, Memorial Hall shared the same designer with Kirkland Hall, the first building on the campus of Vanderbilt University. Both buildings are modified Gothic Revival in style and look strikingly similar, although the Cumberland building had to forgo some of the ornate details and stonework originally planned. Situated on top of a beautiful elevation overlooking the town, the three-story building is still the focal point of the university campus.

     At the time of the famous football game against Georgia Tech, Memorial Hall housed the College, the School of Engineering and the Conservatory of Music. The famous Cumberland School of Law was housed off campus at Caruthers Hall, named after university co-founders and including lecture rooms, a law library and a large auditorium. Known as the “Law Barn” by students, the foyer is adorned with class pictures that “attest to the quality of the Cumberland education.”

     The building also held chapel services each morning for those enrolled in the university. “In the interest of the College students a brief chapel service is conducted each day by some member of the Faculty,” read the Cumberland University Bulletin for 1916-17. “At these services, the simple truths of Christianity are stressed, the formation of right habits insisted on, the temptations peculiar to college men pointed out, and the worth of manly character emphasized. All students are required to attend.”

     This was, far and away, more of a God-fearing time in history than the world we live in today, particularly in the south. According to school bulletins, the town offered “well-appointed and progressive churches, at which all students have a friendly welcome.” The University itself had been born inside the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Lebanon and in 1906 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America became the sponsor of the University. Religion was imbedded to most everything back then. Including a law education.

     The very first course of instruction listed in the university curriculum was the English Bible. “A careful study of the history and literature of the English Bible is essential to the scholar,” students were informed upon their enrollment at Cumberland University. “The Bible, more than any other literature, has influenced the trend of civilization in all ages; it has been the inspiration of writers, scientists, philosophers, statesmen, and all others whose lives and works have helped mankind Godward. The Bible contains not only the key to all philosophy of history, but therein may be found the life ideals, which lead to true worth in manhood and womanhood. The purpose of this study is to familiarize the student with the history of the Jewish people and with the rise and establishment of Christianity; also to open to him the rich literature of the Scriptures and its broad fields of thought and philosophy.”

     No story could be told about the history of Cumberland University, without acknowledging the contributions of Dr. G. Frank Burns in preserving that history. Dr. Burns was a noted Cumberland alumnus who passed away in 2009 at the age of 87. Prior to his passing, Dr. Burns had been a well-known author, educator, journalist and local historian. He was appointed University Historian at Cumberland in 1988, where he chronicled the history of the school, including the famous game the small law school played a role in.

     According to his obituary, Dr. Burns was a recipient of the University’s highest honor, the Award of the Phoenix, and had been the author of numerous books on local history, including Phoenix Rising! The Sesquicentennial History of Cumberland University 1842-1992, which chronicles the first 150 years of the small southern school. The book is dedicated to the memory of his father, George Frank Burns, who taught at Cumberland when Dr. Burns was a small child. In the book dedication, Burns described his father as a preacher, poet and teacher. It was his father, one of the first educators at the university, who penned the school song Cumberland My Cumberland, which was included in the Cumberland University yearbook for the class of 1916:

Cumberland My Cumberland
By G. Frank Burns

My Cumberland is dear to me—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Her fame is known from sea to sea—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Her sons have won their laurels great,
Her daughters prove a helpful mate.
Her teachers' work does not abate,
Cumberland, my Cumberland.

Her servants toil from day to day—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Yet satisfaction comes their way—
Cumberland, my Cumberland,
with zeal and love they labor hard.
Receive from students kind regard.
Their deeds are praised by country's bard,
Cumberland, my Cumberland.

Her hardy sons are known afar—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
In churches, pews, and at the bar—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
They teach and preach and plead a case;
Transform the black and yellow race.
From every sin, from all that's base,
Cumberland, my Cumberland.

Her daughters fair grace earthly halls-
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Obedient to their master's calls—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
They make a name in all the land.
For truth and right securely stand;
'Tis good, 'tis true, their life is grand,
Cumberland, my Cumberland.

Up with the flog-maroon and white—
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Come, follow on and scale the height-
Cumberland, my Cumberland.
Cumberland, my mother, dear,
love thee more from year to year,
Thy name I speak both far and near,
Cumberland, my Cumberland.

     Although the Progressive Era would end when the United States entered World War I, widespread social activism and political activism was still very much en vogue. Theodore Roosevelt had been one of the first progressive voices and the era would result in the passing of the 18th and 19th Amendments, prohibiting alcohol and providing women the right to vote.

     Muckrakers in the media brought attention to issues like children working in factories, while Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle shined a mortifying light on deplorable conditions inside the meat packing industry.

     When the progressives weren’t liberating, they were regulating and banning to bring about social reform. Roosevelt, a progressive himself, would have to do battle with those voices, some who even wanted to ban the sport of football. The end of the Progressive Era would be known as the “Age of Reform” due to all the legislation passed by those who believed in government as a tool for change.

     In 1901, the same year the town of Lebanon was banning drinking establishments, the school first admitted women. And with the addition of budding young female coeds to the campus, came the need for rough, manly sports.

     In actuality, football had first been introduced to Cumberland back in 1894. As the new university was being constructed on what was to become the new Cumberland campus, an athletic field was built on the northwest corner which included a baseball diamond, track and, of course, a football field; All firsts at a university, which had always focused its attention on higher education and religious worship.

     Social change had found its way to the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains. The tone on campus took a sudden turn from heartfelt hymns to raucous chants: 

Razzle dazzle, hobble, gobble,
Siz! Boom! Bah!
Cumberland! Cumberland!
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Hoorah! Hoorah!
Varsity! Varsity!
Rah! Rah!
Siz! Boom! Bah!

     The boisterous cheers from the spectators ranged from the nonsensical to the outright violent:

Give 'em the axe, the axe. the axe.
Give em the axe, the axe, the axe,
W-H-E-R-E ?
Right in the neck, the neck, the neck!
Right in the neck, the neck, the neck!
Right in the neck, the neck, the neck!
T-H-E-R-E !

     As the crowds grew bigger, a covered grandstand was added to the athletic field. In 1902, the school began to receive some attention on the gridiron, according to University historian G. Frank Burns, with a 16 to 5 win over the school now known as Mississippi State. Getting its start in places like Harvard, Yale and Princeton, football was now catching on in schools all across the country (despite its dangerous reputation and propensity for serious injury) and Cumberland was no different. The 1903 season delivered an impressive 6 to 0 victory over Vanderbilt and culminated in a post-season game with Clemson for the championship of the south, which ended with an 11 to 11 tie. The Cumberland Bulldogs, as they were known, would go on to be proclaimed southern champion.

     Although no one knew it at the time, this contest against the Clemson Tigers would one day factor, at least indirectly, into the infamous football game Cumberland would play in Atlanta some thirteen years later, on the yet-to-be-constructed Grant Field. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as they say, and the outcome of that post-season game had most certainly planted itself firmly in the craw of the coach of the Clemson team in more ways than one. Unfortunately, Cumberland’s success on the football field was short lived. The football program was dropped and reinstated more than once in the years that followed and the team achieved only marginal success before 1916 finally rolled around.

     Complicating matters for the struggling Cumberland football program was the hard financial times the school faced. Troubles that traced all the way back to the War Between the States. Difficult decisions would have to be made. Like the Great War in Europe that lingered off in the distance, like an ominous problem that would one day, most likely soon, have to be dealt with, so did the school’s economic dilemma. Despite an $8,000 grant from the U.S. government “as reparation for federal occupancy during the Civil War,” as well as the $15,000 the university received in the sale of Divinity Hall, which had housed the school’s theological department, the university was still facing a fiscal uncertainty that was causing many school administrators to lose sleep.

     Cumberland University, except for the law school, was continually operating on borrowed money - facing a three to four-thousand-dollar deficit by the end of the current year. Not that any of the students were aware of any of this. The university continued to function as it always had. The hallowed halls of Cumberland were built - and rebuilt - on faith and perseverance. They would weather any storm with dignity and honor.

     The 1916 academic year at Cumberland University looked to be an impressive one. Attracting students from all over the Deep South, the school offered four departments: The College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, the Conservatory of Music and the Preparatory School. Students could earn a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws and Master of Arts. Tuition for the law school was $50 per term. To live in the college dormitory, it cost $20 with a roommate, and $25 without. Boarding with families ranged from $3.75 to $5 a week.

     Books for the junior class were another $8, if rented, and $37.25, if purchased. The school also charged a fee of $10 to cover unexpected contingencies. Although the university had small town familiarity between faculty and students, Cumberland expected disciplined behavior from all who attend. Each student is warned of this before he enrolls:

     The University lays upon the student two general requirements. The first is embraced in the motto, ''Semper praesens, semper paratus." Continued absence from class and neglect of lessons are offenses for which the student may be admonished or suspended. The second requirement is that he shall deport himself as a good citizen and a gentleman. In definition of this requirement, the Trustees, by special action, have declared the following as special offenses for which the student may be indefinitely suspended: "Intoxication, gambling, visiting drinking and gambling houses, acting riotously on the streets, and disturbing, by unseemly conduct, religious, literary, or educational meetings of citizens or students."

     For Cumberland University (as it was for much of this country burgeoning with hope and prosperity) the fall of 1916 was bringing to a close the last remaining year of an innocent era. The world had its fair share of problems, but the general consensus seemed to be that things were pretty good. For white middle and upper-class folks, life was one big Norman Rockwell painting. But the progressive winds had blown in big changes, even in sleepy little southern towns like Lebanon. And with those changes had come a new favorite American pastime that was wildly entertaining as well as horribly violent. It was unadulterated adrenaline and testosterone in a pure sport form. This was the real stuff. Men cheered. Women swooned. The players visited hospitals. Some never left.

     The times were changing at the proud southern law school. This was a world of new values and traditions. Wars and liberation were coming. Opportunities were on the rise and, in the eyes of many, morals were on the decline. Already, female ankles were being brazenly revealed by the most adventurous of hemlines. The only question remaining in this struggle of American values was which side Cumberland would wind up on? Would she adhere to order or chaos? Would she embrace barbarism or intellect? Her story is told in the school’s alma mater:

Hail, all hail to Cumberland, sing her praises ever.
To her mem’ry ever true, we’ll forsake her never.
Like the Phoenix from the ashes, she arose to live again.
Ever glorious as before, both today and evermore.

     The university had survived disaster before and arose again better than before. This unwavering belief that any adversity can be overcome had become the lifeblood of Cumberland. Arming graduates with the knowledge that, with enough courage and determination, they could accomplish anything.

     Almost exactly one-half century after the school came face to face with oblivion, the small southern law college was confronted with meeting an untimely end once again. At the heart of the whole sordid ordeal was a single, unsanctioned football contest, one that threatened to destroy the economic future of a prestigious law school and the virtue of a coaching legend. They were the passengers waving bon voyage from the deck of the Titanic as it pulled away. American football was the iceberg.

     Running through the names of the law students enrolled for the fall semester included names like D. R. Cope, Gentry Dugat, E. L. McDonald, C. E. Edwards, George T. Murphy, T. M. Gouger, E. W. McCall, Allen Poague, J. D Gauldin, B. F. Paty and E. D. McQueen. And all the way up, at the very top of the list, was the name of G. E. Allen. They were all young law students in the prime of their lives with their entire futures in front of them. Little did they all know, something terrible was about to befall their small, peaceful town that would put them at risk of losing it all; Something that would be written about for the next 100 years.


Chapter 2 | George Allen 

     The individual most responsible for the 1916 football contest was a young law student by the name of George Edward Allen. He was not to be confused with the other George Allen from the world of football, the popular coach of the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins in the 1960s and 1970s; Or with the other, other George Allen. That would be the hall-of-fame coach’s son, elected Governor of Virginia in the 1990s and to the U.S. Senate in the 2000s. The younger Allen, the Virginia Governor, was considered a strong presidential hopeful until his infamous “macaca” comment got him into hot caca.

     This George Allen was born in Booneville, Mississippi on February 29, 1896. “George Ed” as his small-town lawyer father affectionately called him, was an extremely unremarkable physical specimen. In fact, there wasn’t anything about Allen that might strike a casual observer as being exceptional in any possible way. Allen was aware of such a detail. He even attests to this fact himself in his autobiography:

     Mine has been the kind of life that attracts autobiographers, but not biographers. To me it has been an extraordinary life, and I have long thought somebody should write a book about it. And since I am the world’s leading authority on the subject, I may as well do it myself. Then there is the further consideration that if I don’t nobody else will.

     Among the many reasons for the indifference of biographers to the material my life affords is the incontrovertible fact that I myself am not very remarkable by the vulgar standards of my times. Had I been President of the United States, biographers would be beating down my door. They would search through my personal papers, ferret out my secrets, disagree about the reasons for my mistakes, and tear me to pieces in a way that I myself have no intention of doing.

     It is, all things considered, fortunate I have never been President. It would be futile to deny I have never been President, because the world is full of eccentric people who remember the names of past Presidents as well as other, more normal people remember the past performances of outstanding race horses.

     Not that being unremarkable prevented Allen from engaging in more than his fair share of self-aggrandizement. Modesty was not in his nature. Nor was it in his genes. This unique brand of Allen bravado was seen as something passed down on his father’s side of the family, generation to generation, with great fanfare one would imagine.

     I shall waste no time or words trying to seem modest. I shall emulate Robert Tolman, an artist friend of mine, who once testified as an expert witness in a case involving the value of a picture. Under cross-examination, Tolman was asked who, in his opinion, was the world’s greatest living portrait painter. “I am,” he answered. Later a friend suggested to Tolman his answer might seem immodest to some. “Perhaps,” Tolman conceded. “But what could I do? I was under oath.”

     I have had many other successes in outstanding wrongness. Perhaps I should explain, in this connection, that immodesty is a family tradition with us Allens, and I feel duty bound to carry on.

     It took classmates less than one full school year, it would seem, to formulate an accurate opinion of Allen and his proclivity for embellishment. In his first year at Cumberland, Allen is listed alongside freshman class officers under the inauspicious title of “Class Liar.” The motto of the freshman class that year was “forward” and, despite his shortcomings as a student, Allen took this motto to heart. He would get ahead in life by hook or by crook. After all, he was studying to become a lawyer. Lying, it would seem, should be seen as an asset to the job.

     This was never more clearly on display than one instance, recounted in the student yearbook, when the young Mr. Allen (nicknamed “Fullback” for reasons still unexplained since he didn’t actually play the sport) struggled to come up with the appropriate answer to a question posed upon him in class by one of his professors:

Prof. Bone: "Mr. Allen, are you thinking or guessing?"

“Fullback": "I guess I'm thinking."

     Allen had enrolled at Cumberland University with extremely high expectations for himself and his future. These high expectations were not, however, always matched by his efforts. In fact, they rarely were. Allen had always taken what many viewed to be a leisurely approach to his scholastic endeavors. As a result, he found himself in the unenviable position of being ranked second to last in a class of one hundred and seventy-eight. Allen would later admit to feeling an immeasurable sense of inferiority. Not to the 176 students ranked ahead of him, mind you, but rather that one fellow who’d somehow managed to get away with more than him and still found a way to graduate.

     These were his values. They were not for everyone. He was a law only for his kind, he was no law for all, to bastardize a German philosopher who died when Allen was four years old. He was the Übermensch. The ordinary rules and laws in life did not apply to him. They were boring. Allen had no interest in being that fellow locked away in his room each night, poring over a textbook, so he could walk away from the university with the top grade in his class. He’d rather be that fellow out drinking Tennessee whiskey and romancing budding young beauties and still walk away with the same damn diploma.

     Allen was not there at Cumberland to attend college. He was there to experience it. Law school was merely one chapter in the epic George Allen story. Each day was another potential anecdote he could one day retell over martinis during a business luncheon. The measure of how well he told the story would be whether the colleague choked on a jumbo shrimp during the punch line.

     This easygoing nature didn’t make things easy for him at the university. Allen’s casual approach to life conflicted greatly with Cumberland’s commitment to standards like perseverance and hard work. He believed this to be a bunch of nonsense devised for lesser minds. How could he be expected to respect an institution that encouraged him to put forth effort?

     The whole point in life is to get what you want using the least effort as possible. Any more is just wasteful. And Allen would hate to ever be accused of being wasteful. Much of his lackadaisical approach to scholastics, he would most certainly argue, was attributed to his father while growing up in back in Booneville, Mississippi.

     Allen’s father had died when he was just eight years old, but that didn’t prevent him from making a significant impression on his young son. Though his father had been armed with a law education of his own, he possessed a similar weakness for diversion. As Allen would one day recall in his autobiography, his father was considered an artist in finding ways to evade his responsibilities in favor of more desirable activities; Typically, ones involving a fishing pole.

     “Father professed to be a pious man but of a sect that had no congregation in Booneville,” wrote Allen. “The Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, which flourished in our town, were too lax for him, he said. This being so, he was free to go fishing on Sunday. He was also free to go fishing on most weekdays. Fishing, he once explained to me, was his true profession, and the law was only a sideline. He sometimes took me with him, and once, when I got into trouble for playing hooky, wrote a note to my teacher saying, “George Ed wasn’t in school today because he was fishing with me.” That seemed an adequate excuse to him; it was always good enough to justify the postponement of a trial.”

Being that there were only two practitioners in Booneville, and you need two counselors for each legal dispute, Allen’s father never had to worry about work. He always had enough. His uncle John M. Allen also made a significant impression on Allen. He had survived sixteen years in Congress, serving eight terms, becoming nationally known as “Private John Allen” in the process. Private John was regarded as the “foremost humorist-philosopher of Congress.”

     He was on record in the Congressional Report as once starting a speech by announcing, “Mr. Chairman, I desire to say to those present that their perfect attention will not embarrass me in the least.” When told his time was up, he closed by saying, “That’s a pity, for I had many other things of great interest to say, but as my time has expired, and not wishing to further interrupt the proceedings, I will retire to the cloakroom to receive congratulations.”

     In the fall of 1916, Allen returned from the summer break for his final year at Cumberland. He was about to begin Junior Law. What the class had gone through to get there was daunting. What the class still had to go through was even more daunting:

     The cry of man from the dark ages, down through the passing generations, has been a continuous clamor for life, liberty, and justice. Still rings through the land of every nation that inborn cry, "JUSTICE." Heeding to the voice of man and endeavoring to gratify the civil desires of the coming generations, we have humbly and willingly given our lives to the uplifting of justice in the civil and criminal spheres of our national life.

     We gathered together as Juniors of Cumberland Law in the spring of nineteen hundred sixteen; forty-four in number, and representing, in all, thirteen states, from two national governments. Having the honor of being the largest Junior law class of any spring term in the history of our school, and with a national spirit, free from selfish desires and personal motives; disbanded the personal ties of friendship, and initiatively filled every office with one of our most competent and able class members, and began our work in earnestness and sincerity.

     Realizing the possibilities of youth and the vast empires of opportunity that lie open before us, we have willingly submitted the molding of our intellects and characters to our honored professors. Dr. A. B. Martin, Judge N. Green, and Judge E. E. Beard, whose lives of consistent principles, public spirit, and private virtue have justly received our admiration and esteem.

     We believe those who aspire to attain the heights of the civil profession must struggle with their subjects, and rise from the low, dusty horizon of suspicion to the star-lit heights of genius, kneeling at the feet of the Ruler of the Universe and studying Nature's laws from divine demonstrators.

     With our diligence and sincerity of purpose, we are looking forward for January nineteen-hundred-seventeen, when we will complete our course of study, and then, with others, some of whom have attained distinction and nobility, will dwell forever in the peaceful realms of the Alumni of Cumberland Law.

     To make the degree more affordable to students, Cumberland had condensed its entire law program decades earlier into just one year. It was this hyper-accelerated law curriculum Allen was prepared to start that fall semester. Without question, this was an incredibly challenging position to be in for someone blessed with good work habits, much less someone like him. A Bachelor of Law from Cumberland would not come easy. No sir.

     Among the legal topics covered during the intense one-year program were, “Husband and Wife, Marriage and Divorce, Parent and Child, Guardian and Ward, Master and Servant, Pleading and Practice in Courts of Law, Pleading and Practice in Courts of Equity, Principal and Agent; Partnership, Factors, and Brokers; Bailments, Railways and Other Common Carriers; Administrators and Executors and Probate of Wills; Trustees, Guaranty and Suretyship; Sales, Warranties, Negotiable Instruments, Contracts, Corporations, Torts, Damages, Mortgages; Marine, Fire, and Life Insurance; Equity Jurisprudence, Criminal Law and Procedure, Real Property, Evidence, Dower, Landlord and Tenant, Law of Nations, Constitutional Law, Federal Jurisdiction, Copyrights, Patents, Trade-marks, etc.” The university laid out the rigorous coursework to be studied over the demoralizing junior and senior terms:

History of a Lawsuit (Martin's Ed.).
Bigelow on Torts.
Clark on Corporations.
Kent's Commentaries (Vols. I., II., III.).
Greenleaf on Evidence (Vol. L).  
Stephens on Pleading.

Kent's Commentaries (Vol. IV.).
Barton's Suit in Equity.
Story's Equity Jurisprudence.
Parsons on Contracts.
Black's Constitutional Law.
May's Criminal Law.

     Allen freely admitted he was well schooled, but not well educated. While he would certainly recommend a good education to others, he didn’t feel strong enough to apply himself to getting one. Still he needed to somehow sweat out a law degree and hopefully, in the process of doing so, learn enough to pass a state board. His falling behind in his studies could have been attributed to the numerous extra-curricular activities he involved himself in.

     This would likely elicit no denials from him. According to college annuals, while attending Cumberland Allen was a member of the local YMCA and contributor to the school publication, the Cumberland Weekly. He was also a member of the local Kappa Sigma fraternity, from which Allen would recruit most of his players. But Allen’s interests in school were predominantly focused in one area:

     The process of getting my degree was so painful I cannot bring myself to dwell upon it here. My principal interest in college was athletics, though even in my college days I was primarily a spectator sportsman. I have always liked to watch games of almost any kind, particularly rough games like football, where other fellows bruise each other. I can get all the exercise I want for myself - and enough bruises - climbing to my seat in the stands.

     “George was not legally-minded,” revealed Frederick Cullens in a newspaper article about Allen published decades later. “He preferred football to Blackstone and Chitty.” In the late summer of 1916, however, fortune would smile on Allen like it always did. The Athletic Association, which the 19-year-old was a member of, discovered, at the opening of the football season, that their manager would not be returning. A former star player for Cumberland by the name of John Burns had been the school’s previous coach and manager. As a sophomore, Grantland Rice had chosen Burns on the All-Southern football team. Before that, he had been chosen All-Southern two years straight in prep school. His expertise would certainly be missed.

     A hasty election was held where Allen was chosen to fill the noticeable void. It was admitted in the university yearbook that Allen brought to the position “only a meager knowledge” of the work of the former football manager, but that didn’t prevent him from setting to work with a vim. Even running up a few exorbitant phone bills for the university in the process.

     Despite being ranked second to last in his class, Allen had ensconced himself in perhaps the most enviable position in the entire university. Articles would be written. Crowds would cheer. Young women would swoon. He was a football god in the making. The lord of the sidelines they would call him with a little urging. There was not a more satisfying way Allen could imagine spending his final year at Cumberland. At parties, he would retell his gridiron tales to scores of willing listeners. Everyone laughing as hard as they had the first time they’d heard it.

     This was without question the world Allen had always imagined for himself; A life where a person could be famous and successful without exerting all that much effort; A place where talent and competence meant far less than bull crap and chutzpah. A magical land where being full of malarkey is arguably the most beneficial trait to being a king. Forget Marx, this was his utopia.

     And it all started with football. Even if his final days were spent on a bloody battlefield somewhere in France, at least he’d have some great stories to embellish in the trenches between firefights. His grand plan was coming together like he always knew it would. The Allen plan. He liked the sound of that. He liked the idea of important people listening to what he had to say. As manager of the football team he would have that. He looked forward to reading his words quoted in newspapers. He anticipated opening up the sports page to headlines such as, ‘George “Fullback” Allen leads the Cumberland Bulldogs to another glorious victory!’ or ‘Spectacular upset orchestrated by “Fullback” Allen.’

     Managing basketball and baseball was small potatoes by comparison. Football was the sport of the moment. Football got the headlines. Football got the pretty girls. Football got the “C” when it should have been an “F.” Hopefully. They would have to at least let him graduate. Then he would be a lawyer. With a degree from the most enviable law school the south had to offer.

     George Allen knew he faced his fair share of challenges. He was averse to hard work and he had a weakness for leisurely pursuits like sporting events. His father was a small-town lawyer with big plans that died with him when little “George Ed” was still in the third grade. Despite sharing a similar work ethic, Allen would not make the same mistake his father did. He wanted nothing to do with that small-town life.

     Allen was from Booneville, Mississippi. You don’t get much farther out in the boonies than Booneville, Mississippi. It was a fine enough place to grown up in, but he did not want to go back there. Allen craved a much bigger stage. He was the sort of man who would go places. This time in history was built perfectly for men like him. All around were movers, shakers and doers who were all out building, inventing and governing. He would glob on to individuals like that. There were those in the world with big ideas and then there were the opportunists like him who would be there to benefit from those big ideas. That role fit him like a T.

     It was not like Allen despised hard work. He could work extremely hard at having a good time and enjoying himself. He adored new experiences and good conversation. He just didn’t feel the need to burden himself with the conventional methods of advancement through life. The unconventional methods were infinitely more entertaining. Allen was the sort of person who carried few regrets.

     He was like a tumbleweed. At any moment, a strong wind might blow in and sweep him off to his next destination. There would be no moss on him if he could help it. While Cumberland University was all about prestige and permanence he was about getting the hell out of there and on to whatever next adventure the world had in store for him. This was one chapter in a long, but highly eventful story in which there would be many.

     For the moment, he was in the catbird seat looking out at the wonderful life waiting for him. All he had to do was not mess it up, which, in his case, was always a possibility. Later in life he would amass a fortune and lose a fortune just as easily. Each of the experiences made for an amusing story afterward. That’s the way life was for him. Whatever was going on, good or bad, things were always interesting. Maybe that was why folks were always so drawn to him. His energy and charisma made him an entertaining person to be around.

     Perhaps, that was also why so many of his classmates, all fine, upstanding students at Cumberland with bright futures of their own, chose to follow him down the calamitous road they did. As athletics and politics crossed paths at Cumberland, Allen found himself taking a stand for what he believed was right in a manner destined to go terribly wrong. He was the proverbial grasshopper. And his rainy day was just around the corner.